How big are a Dutchman’s Britches?

Tomorrow we’re having a St. Nicholas celebration with our family.
But St. Nicholas Day was December 6, you say?
You are so right.

But in our family, there is no such thing as a firm date. They’re more like suggestions.
Baby due dates? We laugh at those.
Birthday cards? Why not spread the cheer over several days—or weeks—once we remember the actual birthdate.
IRS requirements? Except for that brief, exhilarating “merry extension to all and to all a good pandemic” of 2020, this agency has actually not demonstrated a sense of humor over fluid deadlines.

Anyway, we’re celebrating tomorrow. With potato soup the website swears is actually Dutch.

I could make Soup-n-Brigh (not how it’s spelled in Dutch but generally how it is pronounced). A mix of bread and buttermilk cooked in an open pot until the entire house smells like a men’s locker room with two weeks of unwashed laundry. Or maybe Bluepop. Barley and grape juice and raisins. Cooked in an open pot ’til the raisins swell to the size and texture of turkey gizzards.

So even though the potato soup isn’t a traditional food handed down from my ancestors, it sounds edible.

What I really go for are the sweets. I will be breaking my grandchildren’s tender little hearts because there will be no Dutch letters in their wooden shoes because with shipping, those little first initials of their names doubled in price. My thrifty forebearers would have rolled over in their graves.

But, we will have almond bars and stroopwafels and my forever favorite: Jan Hagel cookies. I always thought this translated as “John Hail” because the topping—rock sugar in the Netherlands, chopped nuts on this side of the Atlantic—look like hail. (If you squint, this side of the Atlantic.) Turns out, it probably came a slang term for sailors, and came to be associated with the riffraff or common people, and unruly mobs. That last one describes my tribe when we’re high on sugar.

Speaking of being Dutch: on the way to church Sunday we were scanning the skies. After approximately 200 years without seeing the sun, the weather forecast was calling for clearing skies. 
“HA!” I pointed out the car window to a cloud-free area. “My mom always said, ‘If you see a patch of blue big enough to make a Dutchman’s britches, it means the sun will come out.”

And sure enough. After several hit and miss hours, the sun did make a brief appearance. But I’ll tell you from years of experience, it is not always a proven axiom.
Or is it?
How big a Dutchman? How big are his britches? Maybe when the cloud/clear sky ratio hits a certain point, inevitably the sun will come out.
Has anyone researched this? Or is it one of those instinctive things you just learn through generational imprint and experience. I bet those unruly janhagel Dutch sailors would know.

Whether you celebrate St, Nick Day early, late or never, I wish you great blessings of health, strength, safety and faith.
And may all your Dutchmen in the sky have just the right sized britches.

Grinch Green or Sugar Plum Fairy Pink?

About ten, maybe twelve years ago I went through a Christmas nostalgia phase that coincided with a flurry of merchandise designed to appeal to those of us who spent our childhood in the 1960s. With no thought of budgetary restrictions I bought piles of textiles whose predominant colors were bright red and Grinch green. By New Year’s Day that year I was ready to donate all those tablecloths, napkins, and tea towels to a local landfill.

Something about the combination of colors didn’t appeal to me after that first blush of loving association with a kinder, gentler era. I didn’t dump the unpleasant kitchen accoutrements but did frown at them often and only put them on display when no company was expected.

Not long ago my college roommate met me in downtown Chicago and we enjoyed high tea at a lovely hotel. They have pink-predominant trees in the lobby and tea room. See?

It is quite lovely and festive and tasteful. But I’m uncertain if I’m ready to associate pink with Christmas. However. I don’t fancy only the traditional Santa Suit reds and Christmas-tree greens all the time either.

Pastels aren’t my first love. Or second. Washed out colors seem depressing. Monochrome makes an impact but can eventually become …repetitive. Maybe I enjoy richer colors. Deep blues and reds and golds and greens.

The only constant is light. Lots of Christmas lights. White, golden-glow, colored. They light the long hours of darkness in the northern hemisphere. They remind us of the Light of the World. They make electric companies everywhere rub their hands in glee. Yes, lights are my requirement.

Anyone have any favorite Christmas color combos? Anything unusual, new, unexpected? What makes you happy? (And I’m curious if anyone loves browns and/or grays for their Christmas decorations?)

Life after Lawry’s (and its inherent complexities)

The Big Three:
Lawry’s Season Salt

Who could ask for anything more?

They fulfilled all my cooking needs—with occasional forays into oregano and paprika—for years. But life as a vegan seems to require more.
Italian Seasoning? Got it.
Herbs de Provence? The mix that, when I say it in my head, sounds like a delightful blend of Leslie Caron and Hercule Poirot, on my tongue comes out with distinct flavor of Homer Simpson. Can’t do the name justice, but I cook with it.

So now that I’ve dipped a foot into Spices of the World, I’m ready for more. Last night I took my little light-up-tutu clad granddaughter to dance class, and we stopped at the grocery store on the way home. She took notes as we made swift and efficient progress.
Until the spice aisle.
And a paralyzing case of Spice Indecision.

While I dithered over the endless choices involved in “buy two, get one free” offerings, my granddaughter continued to take notes.
Thyme? I have the ground stuff, but need the leaves.
The aforementioned Herbs de Provence? Don’t I have plenty left? Doesn’t it lose its flavor if it sits too long?
And if I buy two spices at the $3.79 price do I get one from the $5.49 category? Or do I have to remain in the parameters of the designated price? Do I need 3 spices from the $3.79, $4.99 or $5.49 groupings?
Thyme leaves. I need those.

While I dithered, my little granddaughter continued to write notes.
“I’m being patient.” She repeated this as I considered the smoked paprika and the Greek seasoning.
“I’m being very patient.” She reiterated as I squatted in front of the rosemary (cracked) the turmeric, and the wasabi blend.
“Still patient,” as she added an ominous-looking line to her notebook.

Not certain what this says, but I doubt it is complimentary

Outside the spice aisle, the World Cup progressed, nation made war against nation, and families everywhere sat down to partake of perfectly-seasoned meals. Time stood still in front of the cayenne, the endless dill options, the Jamaican Jerk. The little signs displaying the various sale prices started to swim before my eyes and my granddaughter’s light-up tutu began to dim. I could not, for love or money, decide which 3 spices from which sale bracket to purchase. I admitted defeat and we made our way to the checkout. My granddaughter closed the notebook but kept a patient finger in her place. Just in case.

We packaged, paid, and loaded into the Jeep. I delivered her safely into the arms of her waiting family. Went home. Unpacked groceries,
And found 2 jars of dried thyme leaves, From the $5.49 section.

Spices Photo by Tamanna Rumee on Unsplash